John MacLean Internet Archive                                                                                  Revolutionary Communist Group

Open Letter to Lenin

First Published: The Socialist, January 30, 1921
Transcription\HTML Markup: Revolutionary Communist Group, and David Walters in 2003
Copyleft: John MacLean Internet Archive (, 2003. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

A conference is being held today (Sunday, 30 January) at Leeds to form a united Communist Party as the British section of the Third International. I believe that you have too good a grasp of affairs to be very far deceived by the situation in Britain, and by the pretentions of most of the prominent ones who will be present. A various assortment of personages visited Russia last year, openly, secretly, and "secretly" whilst the authorities were winking the other eye.

From printed reports of statements issued by them in the name of people who did not delegate them we learn that you are asked to believe that large numbers of workers are organised on a workshop basis ready for the signal of revolution, and that a well-organised and disciplined party will be got ready to head the way through the revolution.

You will recognise that it is the business of the British government to deceive you and get you to make false calculations, as it made the Kaiser form wrong estimates and lay plans for the defeat of Germany. You must therefore recognise that anybody or anything coming from Britain should be treated with the utmost caution and scepticism after Russia’s treatment by Britain during the last two years and more. British capitalism is not out to recognise. or trade with Russian communism, whatever temporary expedients it may resort to. It realises more clearly than any other section of capitalism that a struggle for supremacy has now commenced between capital and labour, and it is determined to crush labour by crushing the Russian republic, and to restore reaction as it is in process of restoring reaction in the defeated countries still called the "central powers".

Only once in four hundred years has England been decisively checked - in the war that gave birth to the United States in the years 1775-86. Today England is gathering her forces together to smash American ambitions as she has just smashed German ambitions. That explains the brutal, bloody and remorseless attempt to crush the spirit of the pluckiest race that has ever stood up to "John Bull, Gentleman", the Irish race; for, if Ireland should side with America in the event of another world war (and it is approaching very near), England must be bottled up on the west.

If that war can be staved off till a German Kaiser and a Russian Tsar are re-established, then Britain will have contact with the whole of Asia and America by way of Germany and the other central nations, as well as by Russia and Siberia.

If America presses hard this year whilst British trade is paralysed, and whilst the workers are in no spirit to respond to the patriotic appeals and pressures so skilfully used in the last war, then Britain will sweetly put Earl Curzon aside and meekly send Lloyd George to clasp you to his bosom as some long-lost brother.

A sham Labour government, with our beloved friends MacDonald and Snowden (and ethereal Ethel, too) in it, will be formed, although the real work will be done by the "old gang" under the guise of the Privy Council.

This expedient of itself would not deceive you, since you and your comrades have the exact measure of the leaders of Labour and of the ILP, and that Lloyd George well knows.

He must, therefore, make way for a Communist Party whose "leaders" are controlled by him. Those who are coming together are a heterogeneous mixture of anarchists, sentimentalists, syndicalists, with a sprinkling of marxists. Unity in such a camp is likely to be impossible; but should unity lead to any menace, then the "leaders" will conduct surplus energy through "safe" channels - safe to Lloyd George.

The Parliamentary leader will be, as recently he has been, Lieutenant-Colonel Malone, MP. This gentleman was on the executive committee of the Reconstruction Society, formerly the Anti-Socialist Society, a society that issued millions of leaflets during and after the general election of 1918 poisoning the minds of people against Bolshevism, yourself, Trotsky, and other Russian comrades. After his visit to Russia, Malone addressed meetings about the conditions of Russia, and last year joined the British Socialist Party, after Rothstein’s attempt to buy Fairchild and myself brought on Fairchild’s retiral from the party and my secret expulsion.

Now The Communist, the successor to The Call when the BSP was transformed into the Communist Party of Great Britain, has passed into the control and editorship of Mr Meynell, who retired from the directorship of the Daily Herald when Lloyd George charged him with bringing jewels to England from Russia to subsidise the Daily Herald.

If Lansbury and he thought it good tactics to dissociate the Daily Herald from Meynell, why is it that Meynell now assumes editorship of what is recognised as the official organ of the Communist Party of Great Britain? Who is Meynell and what is Meynell, are very appropriate questions. To my knowledge he never was in the SDF or the BSP. He has as much standing in revolutionary circles in Britain as Malone.

It is only in a country’ such as Britain, ruled by the most unscrupulous and cunning capitalist class that has ever disgraced this earth, that totally unknown, untried, and inexperienced men could be thrust to the front.

On Gallacher’s return he preached unity and the sinking of personalities, but he participated in a conference in Glasgow of Scottish groups to form the Communist Labour Party. The object of this was to "dish" the Socialist Labour Party from which, in fact, branches passed over to the CLP, and to have a good show at the Leeds Conference - a Lloyd George caricature of the great Leeds Convention of 1917 after the first Russian revolution. To confuse people, the secretary of the group who formed, and who now compose, the CLP was selected to deceive the unwitting. His name is John MacLean, and he hails from Glasgow as well as myself.

Not content with preaching unity and helping to form a new party in October, Gallacher insisted on sacrificing personality for the sake of the movement. However, what has Gallacher been doing in secret? He has been going round the country and warning socialists that MacLean is suffering from "hallucinations". He wrote to that effect to the SLP when I was arranging a conference to bring my supporters into line with the SLP, and he squirmed when I read his letter in public.

He came to the conference uninvited, and there made similar statements in public in presence of a secret reporter to the Harmsworth papers in Glasgow. Before he went to Russia he, with his colleagues of The Worker, burst up comrade Clunie’s classes in Fife, where our comrade conducts a number of classes on the principles of marxism.

The man in Britain who is against marxism is against Bolshevism in Russia too. Obscurantism and reaction have ever gone hand in hand.

Gallacher, of course, is going to do the industrial camouflage. He has led you to believe that there is a workshop movement in Scotland. That is a black lie. I have been at work gates all summer and autumn up and down the Clyde valley, and I am positive when I say that victimisation after the premature forty hours strike crushed the workshop movement. Unemployment today has struck terror into the hearts of those at work, as starvation is meant to tame the workless. No industrial movement of a radical character is possible at present outside the ranks of the miners, and that movement has been revived and is being carried on by SLPers.

I am of the belief that the workshop movement in England is as dead as it is in Scotland.

Do not place reliance, then, on the United Communist Party that will be formed today, and do not rely on the workshop movement either.

In Russia, take your advice from neither Quelch nor Fineberg. Take it from Peter Petroff. Petroff is the only Russian who knows the working-class movement intimately in London and Glasgow. Until his imprisonment in 1916 Petroff stayed with me, and worked with MacDougall and me to build up the mass movement that is now beginning to manifest itself in Scotland. Petroff is the only marxist in Russia, then, that has any real comprehension of the situation here, and can fully explain this letter to you. Remember that it was left to me to start the movement in 1917 for the release of Petroff and Tchitcherin, and that it was on Petroff’s advice you in Russia made me Consul for Scotland. It was my fidelity to you and the cause of revolution that got me the five years’ sentence in 1918.

I am still carrying on, although betrayed, not by the workers, but by so-called "comrades". It is by no accident that Dr Shadwell, after a recent tour over Britain, wrote in a series of articles to the London Times that the Clyde was the most revolutionary centre rn Britain. The Gallacher gang thrice tried to seize control out of my hands, and failed absolutely. Three thousand five hundred unemployed meet twice a week in the City Hall, so that we may discuss principles and tactics applied to the present situation from a marxian point of view.

As more and more are thrown idle and begin to starve for the government means them to starve you can realise that, sooner or later, a mass movement, vaster and bolder than ever before, is bound to show itself. The situation becomes all the more serious, since many wage-slaves here are Irishmen, whose country is being more and more cunningly and cruelly tortured. The rightful racial and class hatred of these men is going to make for an avalanche of opinion and feeling that are bound, sooner or later, to break through the bonds of English capitalism.